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DBT rocks on

El Rey, Los Angeles, February 9, 2018

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Drive-By Truckers still sometimes get miscategorized as alt.-country, but who's kidding whom? With three electric guitarists upfront exchanging hard rock licks all night, this is a blistering Southern rock band.

Hitting the stage just before 10, the band played a satisfying 2-hour-plus set. At 11:40, Patterson Hood announced the band would be playing until the midnight curfew, which they did - without bothering to leave the stage and return for an encore.

Hood takes the lion's share of the lead vocals, although Mike Cooley shone with his own strong songs, including "Where the Devil Don't Stay" and "Shit Shots Count." However, Hood is the spokesperson. Tonight, he told a story of how he was recently forced to miss one of Tom Petty's last concerts, before singing Petty's "Southern Accents," which led into the similarly-minded "Ever South." The latter is one of Hood's better songs, although tonight's performance directed a profane shot at Christianity.

In addition to DBT's fine songs, the group included a few well-chosen covers (along with the Petty number). They did a sincerely fine cover of Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," and bassist Matt Patten took his lone lead vocal on The Ramones' "The KKK Took My Baby Away."

Hood told another great story, this time about Patti Smith, before performing "What It Means." The song grapples with all the social ills of our times, which never fail to baffle us. Smith was performing her "Horses" album in its entirety, Hood recalled, when she stopped mid-song to admonish the audience to simply love each other. And to paraphrase Hood, 'what it means' is that we should simply love one another more.

Hood went all the way back to 1987 for his duet with opener Lilly Hiatt on "Runaway Train." Hood described the song's creation as destitute, pre-Drive-By Truckers days, when another band (Soul Asylum) had a huge MTV hit with a song with the same name.

Hiatt opened the night with a surprisingly hard-rocking set. Hiatt temporarily switched from electric guitar to acoustic for the movingly personal "Imposter," where she addressed her famous father John Hiatt. She closed with the jubilant "Records," which expresses the joy of music. With her aggressive musical approach, Hiatt fit right in on this hard-rocking night.

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